MY HELP COMES FROM GOD
(An Extract from Bishop s Charge of the 1st Session of the 7th Synod delivered by the Rt Revd Dr. Olusola James Odedeji)
Text: Psalm 121:1-2
The background of the Psalm
The superscription to this Psalm tells us that it is a "Song of Degrees." That is, this is a Psalm that worshipers would sing as they made their way to Jerusalem, to participate in the three great annual feasts; Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. With that in mind, it is plain to see that this is a pilgrim s song. It tells of the dangers of the journey, and of the help God provides along the way. That is why some called it the Traveller’s Psalm. The Psalmist penned it when he was going abroad, and designed it, for a good man’s convoy and companion in a journey or voyage. But one thing is certain, wherever we are, at home or abroad, we are exposed to danger more than we are aware of; and this Psalm directs and encourages us to repose ourselves and our confidence in God, and by faith to put ourselves under his protection and commit ourselves to His care. This we must do, with an entire resignation and satisfaction.
Life is full of many dangers. The physical: disease, injury, accident, war, infirmity, or natural disasters. The economic: recession, depression, unemployment, downsizing, insolvency, debt, or theft. The spiritual: doubt, sin, evil, corruption, fundamentalism, extremism, or false teaching. What more natural question to ask than, “From whence shall my help come?”
In singing this Psalm, I. The Psalmist here assures himself of help from God (v. 1, v. 2). II. He assures others of it (v. 3-8). It is indeed A song of Degrees. As the travellers to Jerusalem were hiking up the mountain, with the sun bearing down upon them, with thirst parching their throat, with their legs aching, and with fatigue setting in, they knew that they needed help for their journey. But, they also knew that they needed help for the coming year. And when they looked for help, they were told to look beyond the mountains unto the LORD, their God. Their help didn’t come from the mountains. Nor did their help come from Jerusalem - their religious community. Rather, their help came from beyond Jerusalem and beyond the mountains. Their help came from the LORD.
Verse 1 is not a declaration of hope, but rather, it is a cry of despair. The Psalmist is telling us that danger is lurking in the hills above, and is waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon the weary traveller. When this happens, where can the pilgrim turn to for help? The Psalmist answers his own question, and we are reminded that the Lord is our help!
When the hills in our lives might look like the solution, and hiding place from our pain, or the source of our affliction, the Psalmist teaches us to look elsewhere for our help. We are to look beyond our human strength, capability and achievements, and with spiritual eyes look unto the Creator of all hills i.e. the Owner and Creator of our strength, capability and achievements. We are to boldly say “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
The source of our help is both personal and impeccably competent. Thus, we are not fret over the hills, nor try to hide in their fleeting shadows — the Lord made heaven and earth. “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth” (Psalm 97:5). Beloved, look to the Lord Who is eternal, all-powerful, and Who loves you.
The hills many look unto
Psalm 121 would have been sung as Israel approached “the hill of the Lord” to worship Him (Psalm 15:1; 24:3). But the mountain on which Israel met with God was not the only possible object of their attention. “The hills” — on which many nations worshiped their false gods — could have appeared as alluring havens of hope, or intimidating causes of concern.
Either way, the Psalmist’s appraisal of his situation reflects the place in which we all find ourselves. Our help comes only from the Lord — the Lord Who made all the hills (Psalm 121:2). All other hills we see before us in life can neither rescue us, nor deliver us.
There are many things which can stand as hills to us today. They are seen as the means of help and comfort in this world. Many people believe, as long as they have them, they are safe and protected. But reality has proved them wrong. These hills, though not limited to these, include the following;
The hill of Money: Money is good. Whoever desires to live in this world with ease needs money. Without money, life could be miserable on this side of eternity. Even in the Church, the place of money cannot be over emphasized. Some people have changed the logo now from-Money as the bicycle of evangelism to jet of evangelism. Whether bicycle or jet, this is just telling us how important money is to the spread of the Gospel. But as good as money is, it cannot be looked upon as the saviour and giver of help. There are some situation of life, money cannot help or proffer solution.
The reason money often seems to be the strong tower and confidence of people is that, it does actually rid life of many trials and tribulations. It keeps you warm with clothing, nourished with food, sheltered, protected from the tyranny and abuse of others. The list could go on and on. But herein lies the deception: While money can provide many things, it guarantees nothing. Your wealth can be taken away just as easily as it was given - Job is the classic example of this (Job 1&2). Only God remains the same from age to age. Only He provides lasting protection, nourishment and care. And most importantly, wealth cannot be taken beyond the grave. Upon death, every man will stand barren and empty before the throne of God. Only those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ will be spared from eternal torment. Only those who put their trust in God will truly know what it means to be rich, and to have their portion filled forever.
The hill of Position: Some people erroneously believe that there are unique positions one can reach and there will be no troubles in life. They eye political positions like being a President or Governor. In the religious cycle, it is all about being a Bishop. To academic world, people covet the position of Vice Chancellor, and so on and so forth. Beloved, you only need to ask His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, what he is passing through. Take a walk to Alausa, meet with Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, our Governor, and ask what time dohe goes to bed. As your Bishop, I have my own story to tell. There is no position without its problems. Every opportunity attracts responsibilities, and when responsibilities come, they come with lorry load of worries, anxieties and pain. That is why anyone who lifts his or her eyes to the hill of position, as where the needed help can come from, cannot but be disappointed. The higher you go the hotter it becomes.
Therefore, do not trust your position, the power or authority at your disposal. It will not last. Someone was once in that position and you can’t be the last. When you are "Important" in the people s eyes, everyone is your "Friend" But once you don t benefit their interests, you won t matter, Arnold Schwarzenegger said. Thus, our sure help cannot come from this Hill.
The hill of Connection and God-fatherism: One man once said-‘whoever does not have connection in this country is at the mercy of all’. Another man told me “whoever does not have god-father, cannot go far”. Yes I agree, but as good as the hill of connection and god-fatherism may look colourful, it cannot provide a lasting help. This is because Man would always be Man. The heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it. The one who lifts you up can bring you down. The day you offend the man, is the day the help stops. We are to lift up our eyes beyond this hill. It is not the real source of help. For, if God would not help you, who can? Bible says vain is the help of man-Psalm 108:12.
The hill of Knowledge: No doubt, Education gives us a knowledge of the world around us, and changes it into something better. It develops in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us build opinions and have points of view on things in life.It is said, “Knowledge is Power”. This quote has versatile shades of application and holds good in several contexts. Knowledge has enabled us make all the advancements in the science and technology spheres, that we have been able to achieve. It has made us far more capable, superior and sophisticated beings on this earth. Knowledge is the primary factor that clearly distinguishes the human race from the animals. This is to tell us how important knowledge is. Nevertheless, in recent times, we have seen how futile human knowledge is. On a daily basis, there are new discoveries that put on hold, former ones, which man has depended on for ages. It shows knowledge is time bound and limited. It shows man cannot see beyond his two eyes. Many principles and philosophies we are holding on today are what the incoming generations are going to fault, and produce better ones. This suggests to me that Knowledge is just “the best you think you know now’’. The only Mr. Know-It-All is God. Thus, He alone can be approached for enduring help.
The hill of Achievements and Prosperity: When you look back and see what you have achieved in life, you can be tempted to say, ‘Yes, My hands have got me all these’, like the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. Past achievements, if caution is not taken, have a way of assuring us of the power in us and ability to cause it to happen again without any credence to God. The challenge in this is that, anytime we look unto this hill, we are tempted to be proud and arrogant. And just as King Solomon noted, pride goes before fall - Pro 16:18. Thus, instead of this hill to give us the expected help, we end up in offending the Lord of the universe. Knowing fully well that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hand of the living God- Hebrew 10:31.
The hill of Charm and Occultism: There is power and there are powers. Charms and occultism are one of the hills people look unto for help and salvation. Many people are lured into occultism in search of protection and money. They are given assurances of safety and security, with the hope to live above board. Little do they know that Devil is not a Father Christmas, before he gives a man a pen, he would have collected a car instead. While they may have the money and fame, they are robbed of peace of mind, joy, good home and healthy life, and at last, end their lives in calamity. We must not be deceived, check those herbalists who prepare rituals for money, they themselves are poor and wretched. Why? Because they know the end of ill-gotten wealth is always brutal. The truth is, this type of hill is not where our help can come from.
Points to note about help
There are many definitions as regards the word “Help’’. But I am going to limit myself to the submission of Merriam-Webster Dictionary which puts it as: to do something that makes it easier for someone to do a job, to deal with a problem, etc; to aid or assist someone; to make something less severe; to make something more pleasant or easier to deal with; to give (yourself or another person) food or drink.
Having known this, let us engage ourselves with the following points about help.
Why your help must only come from God
The Psalmist provides the following answers-Because He is the Maker of heaven and earth-v2.
By this, he evaluated the ability of the One he was trusting to help him- He is not just anyhow person, but One who is so powerful to have created the whole earth and the heaven above. The One Who helped His people out of the hands of all their enemies (Pharaoh, Goliath etc), and out of all their troubles and afflictions; He helped them in the performance of duty, in the exercise of grace, in bearing the cross, in fighting the Lord s battles, and on their journey; He helped them to all blessings, temporal and spiritual; to all needful supplies in the wilderness , and this help He gave was quick and present, suitable and seasonable, was sufficient, and sometimes with, and sometimes without means; and they had great encouragement to expect more from Him. He was able to give it, being the Maker of heaven and earth; for what is it that He cannot do? And besides, He has promised to help them, and He is faithful that has promised.
By this it shows God is bigger than our troubles-v.2. God told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32:27- Behold,' I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?' Look at the confession of Paul in Col 1:16 - 'He made all things. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him'
David also exalted Him as the 'all in all' in 1 Chronicles 29:11, saying- 'Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all'
Since He is the Maker of heaven and earth, then, He can make all things new again. Listen to God in Isaiah 43:18-19'Forget the former things;do not dwell on the past.See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?I am making a way in the wildernessand streams in the wasteland'
The following facts are undeniable about life;
When you trust Him, the following are guaranteed
Lessons from this passage
Therefore, be calm, God is in charge. Psalm 124: 1-8.
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say—
2 “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
When men rose up against us,
3 Then they would have swallowed us alive,
When their wrath was kindled against us;
4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us,
The stream would have gone over our soul;
5 Then the swollen waters
Would have gone over our soul.”
6 Blessed be the Lord,
Who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
7 Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth (NKJV)
How do we position ourselves for the help of GOD?
1Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." One translation says ". . . this is the will of God . . . to you-ward." (ASV)
A life of thankfulness reflects the glory of God. It s God s will "you-ward" that you give thanks in every circumstance. Thanksgiving is not so much for His benefit as it is for ours. It changes us. It helps us stay focused on God and His grace, and goodness and the exceedingly abundant riches we have in Jesus. It helps us remain mindful of Him, and to live our lives aright. And in the end, that s what honors Him the most. A life of thankfulness reflects the glory of God. So let s make it a point to have an attitude of gratitude. Like David, let s resolve: "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart: I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you . . . O Most High" (Ps. 9:1–2).
Note the following facts about Prayer
Psalm 121 teaches us to stay ourselves upon God as the God of power that is all-sufficient for us. David did so and found the benefit of it. His life teaches us that we must not rely upon creatures, upon men and means, instruments or arms of flesh: "Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills?’’ —so some read it. "Does my help come thence? Shall I depend upon the powers of the earth, upon the strength of the hills, upon princes and great men, who, like hills, fill the earth, and hold up their heads towards heaven? No; in vain is salvation hoped for from hills and mountains, Jer. 3:23 .
I never expect help to come from them; my confidence is in God only. “We must lift up our eyes above the hills” (so some read it); we must look beyond instruments, to God. We must see all our help laid up in God, in His power and goodness, His providence and grace; and from Him we must expect it to come: "My help comes from the Lord; the help I desire is what He sends, and from Him I expect it in His own way and time. If He does not help, no creature can help; if he does, no creature can hinder it.’’ We must therefore, fetch our help from God, by faith in His promises, and due regard to all His commands.
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